I am often confused by the world that my teen-aged daughters live in. Not the one in our house.. but the one that consists of their peers and social networks.
My daughters could not be more different on some notes: one is a serious student, the other brilliant, but not interested in spending any more time hitting the books than she has to. One is quiet, has a few close friends and even though I try to talk about a broad variety of topics at the dinner table remains fairly socially sheltered– mostly through focus and oblivion. The other is a social butterfly, with a wide network of many casual friends and an easy way of getting to know people. She talks endlessly on the phone and on Facebook, and has a gossip network that travels faster than light. She responds strongly to peer pressure and is concerned that if she is a teenager without breaking rules she will have missed the crux of what a teenager is supposed to do.
Strangely enough, they are both very conservative when it comes to sex. I do not mean worrying over sexual orientation or gender identity. We are way beyond that in this family. I am talking conservative about the actual mechanics of sexual intimacy. The perceived “grossness” of sticking your tongue, or fingers or other body parts ( or other objects) into your own or someone else’s orifices is still strong with both of them.
Don’t get me wrong. There is some small part of me, as a concerned parent, who is glad that my almost 14 year old is not thrilled about the idea of sexual intercourse… she has plenty of time to get over it and still have a healthy sex life. Just because I lost my virginity at 15, does NOT mean I want my daughters to.
What concerns me is that they both have adopted from all of their peers a sort of “blinders on” attitude about the sexual parts of bodies that means that they are not gaining that crucial life long familiarity with their OWN body. Both of my daughters discovered masturbation as small children… almost every child alive does. We had a talk about how that was a private thing that was fine when you were by yourself, but NOT an OK public action. Laying in the middle of a living room full of folks and jacking off tends to be frowned upon in our current society. Then, they hit about 5th or 6th grade and apparently absorbed from their peers that masturbation was BAD. Wha??? No amount of discussion on my part or casual inclusion of the topic into discussions seems to make any difference at all ( and if you think it is easy to include the topic of masturbation casually into family dinner talk… you are mistaken).
Flash back to being 14. Life is full of crazy insane stress, your body is changing on an almost daily basis, your brain confuses and surprises you and your hormones are raging. I think the one reason I survived my teen years without completely losing my mind was that I became a connoisseur of masturbation. Not only does it feel good, but it produces a sweet endorphin rush that relaxes you way better than any glass of wine, or any smokeable product. Jacking off was sanity in a world gone complete mad, and some nights I went to bed early, just to escape into that warm haze.
Now I have teenagers of my own, one of whom often can not fall asleep. Stress rushes through her body, making muscles twitch and neurons randomly fire, startling her back awake. I remember this state.. heck some nights I still find my self in the neighborhood. And so when she plaintively says to me “Mom, I can not sleep, please can’t you help me sleep?” I find myself talking about relaxation techniques and centering and calming when what I really want to do is say “For heaven’s sake- just jack off – it will make you feel much better!” This is, of course, NOT an acceptable thing for a parent to blurt out to a teen offspring.
What I wonder is if this “hands off” attitude is limited to the mid-west, or if it is a nationwide or global sort of phenomenon. What do you see in your neck of the woods?